NEW DELHI: The Congress on Tuesday made a slew of recommendations to the government on tackling the coronavirus pandemic such as ensuring free and universal vaccination in the shortest possible time frame and invoking the compulsory license provision to allow more firms to manufacture the jabs to ramp up domestic production.
The party also recommended allocation of vaccines to states based on a "justifiable formula" centered on evidence and providing ex-gratia relief of at least Rs 4 lakh for all coronavirus related deaths.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi released a 'white paper' by the party on the handling of COVID-19 and urged the government to prepare for the third wave by improving medical infrastructure and carrying out vaccination on a war footing to protect all Indians.
The white paper alleged that the "mismanagement" of the COVID-19 pandemic has been "independent India's gravest governance failure".
The Union government under Prime Minister Modi did not take adequate measures to prevent and contain the pandemic, the 150-page document said.
Some of the key recommendations made in the white paper are ensuring all Indians receive free and universal vaccination in the shortest possible time frame, the government share a detailed weekly roadmap of progress towards its announced December 31, 2021 deadline to vaccinate all of India's adults and compulsory license provisions be invoked under the Patents Act 1970 to ramp up domestic vaccine production.
It also urged the government to collaborate with vaccine manufacturers, raw material suppliers, and foreign governments to ensure a steady supply of raw materials and vaccines for India.
"Allocate vaccines to states based on a transparent, justifiable formula, centered on evidence, equity and particular local requirements," the white paper said in its recommendations.
It asked the government to take accurate vaccine-related and COVID-19-related data publicly available in a transparent manner.
The white paper also urged the Centre to implement political and administrative measures including a national level, all-party committee to review measures to contain the pandemic, to improve coordination with state governments, and to collaborate with civil society.
It asked the government to decentralize decision-making, management of critical resources and transfer funds to the district level to organise essential health services, from primary to tertiary care, and address regional imbalances.
It also called on the government to prepare for possible third and future waves by heeding expert advice, scaling up testing significantly (especially in rural areas), and pooling human resources at the state and district levels.
"Provide ex-gratia relief of at least Rs.4 lakh for all COVID-19 related deaths under the Disaster Management Act, 2005," the white paper recommended to the government.
It also asked the government to implement relief measures including a minimum income support scheme for the poor and most vulnerable, continue free food supplies to the poor, reduce excise taxes on petrol and diesel, grant wage subsidies to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), increase budgetary support to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and provide relief for the urban poor.
"As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll on India, it is imperative that the Modi government set aside divisive and discriminatory political agendas, exclusionary policies, and implements these recommendations to help mitigate the ongoing second wave, and to ensure that India is well prepared to face future waves of the pandemic," the white paper said.